The concept of omnichannel has gained popularity in recent years, becoming evident at Retail’s Big Show – NRF 2023. The event witnessed an intense focus on the “Omnichannel Experience,” with discussions, innovative sessions, and solutions aimed at helping brands succeed in an evolved retail environment – one that allows customers to purchase from diverse purchase channels.
An effective Omnichannel Experience strives for seamless integration of marketing, sales, and customer service across each of these purchase channels, creating a cohesive and unified customer journey regardless of the customer’s chosen interaction point.
Although the pandemic has amplified the volume of e-commerce transactions, the majority of purchases in the United States still occur within brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers must invest in establishing a unified and frictionless customer experience across channels in parallel to their investments in digital. Whether online, in-store, via mobile apps, SMS, or social media, each potential touchpoint along the customer’s journey applies pressure on retailers, reshaping their marketing strategies.
Marketers are encountering new challenges. For instance, imagine a shopper who spots a product on social media and decides to inspect it in person at a brick-and-mortar store. In this scenario, they might access the retailer’s website on their mobile phone for additional information. Such complexity highlights the intricacies of omnichannel marketing, demanding a seamless experience across these touchpoints for omnichannel success.
Incorporating the customer’s perspective into organizational strategies allows retailers to make smarter multichannel decisions. A powerful approach for building a deep understanding of customers is primary marketing research. When brands directly tap into the decision-making process of their customers and prospective customers, they significantly improve the odds of omnichannel success.
Effective Marketing Research Begins with Asking the Right Questions
Here are six examples of marketing challenges posed by a multichannel approach:
- Is the product messaging consistent on social media, at the store, and website?
- Should the price be the same via each channel, or should the retailer charge a product premium online to offer free delivery?
- How can store representatives (and technology at the store such as kiosks) be knowledgeable about the experience the shopper had online? Is the customer a loyalty member? Have they provided information or taken a brand quiz that could help personalize the store experience?
- How can large department stores ensure internet connectivity throughout the store when they have such high racks and outdoor spaces?
- Which channels are cannibalizing the market share of each other, and to what degree?
- How can marketing managers understand cross-channel attribution post-purchase? Which advertising efforts are the greatest drivers of conversion?
Countless business questions to answer exist for retailers as this space evolves. Primary research engagements can be customized to answer questions that are a top priority for the business team.
Applying Customer Centric Strategies for Omnichannel Success
Customer journey mapping and choice modeling represent two examples of research methodologies. Outputs of these engagements allow brands to elevate the overall experience for customers and drive business success.
Customer Journey Mapping
The customer decision-making process is influenced by various factors, including culture, situation, and psychology. Typically, this process encompasses five key steps, although not all steps are included for every purchase and their sequence may vary:
- Need recognition
- Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
- Post-purchase behavior
Customer journey mapping provides a comprehensive visualization of the touchpoints customers encounter throughout their experience. This approach focuses on the customer’s perspective, depicting their actions, words, thoughts, and emotions throughout the journey.
By mapping the journey, businesses gain valuable insights into customer interactions, pain points, and the alignment between customer expectations and perceptions. This understanding empowers organizations to design and implement new solutions, processes, and communications from the customer’s perspective.
- Frame & Plan
- Empathize with Customers
- Design Journey Map
- Activate Maps Within the Organization
Choice modeling uses statistical analysis to model how customers make decisions, informing marketing strategies and priorities across different purchase channels.
One example of choice modeling is choice-based conjoint (CBC), a methodology that evaluates customer tradeoff decisions among different price levels and attributes such as brand, channel, and product features. Customers are not able to directly express the importance they assign to these attributes, since their purchasing mindset differs, so CBC simulates real-world scenarios in order to determine the impact of these factors on purchase decisions. It excels in identifying tradeoffs, especially related to pricing, by prompting customers to make comparative assessments.
Consider a retail brand offering both in-store and delivery options. Through CBC, a buying scenario involving these channels and key competitors can be emulated, providing answers to crucial questions:
- Which product characteristics drive customers to choose the brand over competitors, and to what extent?
- Which product characteristics influence customers to choose between in-store and delivery options, and to what extent?
- Formulate the Problem or Questions
- Design the Choice Activity
- Choose the Most Appropriate Data Collection Method
- Collect the Data
- Model and Analyze Results
- Activate Learnings Within the Organization
Omnichannel has changed the retail industry, presenting both challenges and opportunities for brands. For omnichannel success in this evolving landscape, organizations should embrace customer-centric approaches to help them deliver a seamless and cohesive customer experience.
Written by Mark Scholz, Insights Manager at KS&R